Leave it to electric-car maker Tesla Motors to spring another surprise on the world.
This morning, it announced a brand-new version of the base model in its signature battery-electric luxury sedan lineup.
The Tesla Model S 70D is an all-wheel-drive Model S with a 70-kilowatt-hour battery pack, rated at 240 miles of range and priced at $75,000 before incentives.
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Tesla quotes a 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of 5.2 seconds for the new Model S 70D, along with a top speed of 140 miles per hour.
That's not as fast as the hot-rod Model S P85D that's brought in both new buyers and a slew of trade-ins from existing Tesla owners, but it's still respectable for a five-seat luxury sedan. (Technically, it's a hatchback.)
Tesla Model S electric-car road trip, Route 66 Museum, Elk City, Oklahoma [photo: David Noland]
The new model comes standard with Supercharging DC fast-charging built in, as well as Tesla's navigation system and the hardware for Autopilot functions, which the company says it will enable in the future to provide self-driving capabilities under certain circumstances.
It also includes the newly revised Trip Planner software, which keeps the driver within battery range of Superchargers or other charging stations.
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Other electronic safety features fitted to the new Model S 70D as standard include automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and parking sensors.
It also comes with automatic keyless entry and a GPS-enabled Homelink system.
2015 Tesla Model S P85D Supercharging in Rocklin, California, Feb 2015
In the Model S range, the new 70D version is only $5,000 more expensive than the outgoing base 60 model with a 60-kWh battery, which was rated at 208 miles of range but did not have the "D" dual-motor all-wheel-drive system.
The Tesla dual-motor system actually improves range over the same car with a single motor (and the same battery size) because with motors of two different outputs, it can send power to the motor that can operate more efficiently at any given moment.
The new 70D base model comes as a surprise, and it readjusts the lineup of Tesla Model S versions--three of which now have all-wheel drive standard.
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The range now spans from the $75,000 Model S 70D (which is $76,070 with delivery) to the Model S P85D, which can hit $130,000 with a heavy hand on the options list. In between are the rear-wheel-drive 85 and the AWD 85D.
The new Model S should enable Tesla Motors to sustain interest in the evolving range until its Model X electric crossover utility vehicle goes into production toward the end of this year.
That model, the company's third new vehicle--and second high-volume product in 10 years--has accumulated a substantial waiting list of depositors, but has been delayed multiple times.
2012 Tesla Model S
With its roof-hinged "falcon doors," a promised towing capability of several thousand pounds, and a larger and heavier body, the Model X has posed an engineering challenge for Tesla.
Still, it should bring in many new buyers to the Silicon Valley electric-car maker, especially given the continuing growth in popularity of SUVs in the U.S. car market overall.
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Tesla also announced three new paint colors for the Model S range, available immediately: Warm Silver, Ocean Blue, and Obsidian Black.
As always, the new Tesla Model S 70D can be ordered online through the Tesla Motors website.
The company hasn't yet said when the new version will be available for test drives at its Tesla Motors stores.